BRIAN WITTE, Associated Press
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday he will propose a “common sense” paid sick leave measure to balance the needs of employees without hurting the state’s small businesses.
A leading Democrat who has been working on legislation, however, doubts the Republican governor’s proposal goes far enough to win support from advocates who have been pushing for legislation for several years.
Under Hogan’s plan, businesses with 50 or more employees would be required to offer paid sick leave of at least 40 hours a year. That would include the ability for employees to roll over a maximum of 40 hours annually.
Maryland businesses with fewer than 50 employees that choose to offer paid sick leave will be eligible for tax relief incentives modeled after a recommendation from a bipartisan panel that studied ways to improve Maryland’s business climate.
“It’s clear that in order to move forward we’re going to need to strike a balance between the needs of Maryland’s employees while not hurting our small businesses and continuing to foster a more business friendly climate in our state,” Hogan said at a news conference, noting that the measure has failed to pass the General Assembly in recent years.
Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said it was positive to hear the governor express interest. Still, the Charles County Democrat doubted advocates who have been pushing for required paid sick leave would support a bill that only makes the requirement of businesses with 50 or more employees. Advocates have been reluctant to accept that businesses with 15 or more employees should be required to provide paid sick leave, Middleton said.
“It’s not a bill that they could accept,” Middleton said, noting that he believed the governor’s proposal as is would likely be “doomed to failure.”
The senator said he was hopeful that the governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature would be able to find middle ground.
“I seriously want to work with the administration,” Middleton said.
Del. Dereck Davis, a Democrat who chairs the House Economic Matters Committee, said he is excited the governor and lawmakers appear to agree it’s time to require paid sick leave.
“The important point in all of this is that all parties seem to agree that we need paid sick leave here in Maryland,” Davis said.
Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore, said lawmakers plan to make the measure a priority this session, introducing it as the first House bill of the next legislation session, which begins next month.
“I’m excited he sees this as a priority now,” Clippinger said of the governor’s announcement.
The governor’s proposal calls for part-time employees to be covered after a minimum of 30 working hours. If a company already has a general leave policy that meets these minimum requirements, the state would not interfere under Hogan’s proposal.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees who choose to participate in the governor’s paid sick leave proposal would be exempt from the first $20,000 of their income from taxes.
Hogan’s plan also would provide protection for seasonal industries by exempting workers employed for fewer than 120 days in a 12-month period.
Mike O’Halloran, the Maryland director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the group appreciated Hogan’s efforts to address concerns of the business community. He said Hogan’s proposal was better than the measure passed by the House of Delegates last year.
“If the legislature is intent on passing a paid sick leave bill, we hope they will consider the governor’s proposal as it provides much-needed protections for the small business community,” O’Halloran said.
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